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Celebrating 5 Years and Making This Newsletter Even Better in '23
In January 2018, I sent the very first edition of this newsletter. You can read it here. Since then, I haven’t stopped.
I cringe at patting myself on the back — truly I do, just ask my wife — but I’m awfully proud that I’ve sent this thing (almost) every Friday for 5 years. I skipped one week last year over the holidays — as far as I can remember, that’s the only time I’ve skipped.
That’s at least 1,000 words every week for 260 weeks.
In that time, I’ve grown to ~5,300 readers on my free list. The math isn’t perfect, but I’ve roughly doubled each year.
I’m amazed and even surprised by that number every time I see it. First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who read this newsletter! Interacting with you via email and in the comments is enormously fun, and to know that I’ve impacted your reading lives is, truly, a treasure. I love this community and it bears repeating again and again: THANK YOU.
To double again in ‘23 — to hit 10,000 inboxes! — will take a lot of work, which is why I’m writing this.
Here’s how this newsletter operates.
I read a lot of books and I keep a spreadsheet of those books. We’ve been over that part. I also have a “Planning” spreadsheet, where I map out which books I’ll be covering in upcoming editions of the Friday newsletter. I’m usually planning about one month out, which keeps me from scrambling week to week.
I try to have some sort of theme for each edition, which hopefully keeps things interesting and memorable for ya’ll.
I know that I need (at least) two book reviews for each newsletter, coming in at 300-400 words each. I write those first, add in an intro and any extra features, then have my intrepid editor (my wife Jane!) look everything over.
Beyond the reading and writing, you wouldn’t believe how many PR pitches I respond to on a weekly basis, from authors themselves, from publicists at publishing houses, and from founders working on bookish startups.
I also respond to plenty of what I’d call “customer support” emails. Folks who have trouble with their subscription, can’t figure out Substack, etc.
Besides just the raw hours of sitting at a computer to do these things, I think about this newsletter a lot. I think about you, my readers, a lot.
Ya’ll mean the world to me and I couldn’t be more grateful for your time and attention in a world that is over-saturated with content.
The dream and the ask.
So here’s the thing, friends: I love books. I’m obsessed with books and authors and the publishing industry. Outside of my family and friends, they are my life’s passion.
I’m giving radical honesty a try here, because I always appreciate it as a reader.
Someday, whether it’s tomorrow or in 10 years, I’d love to be able to give even more time to my bookish work. Whether that means working my “real” job part-time or just giving this newsletter more of my spare hours doesn’t much matter to me, but that’s the dream.
There are bigger, truly pie-in-the-sky dreams too — like doing this newsletter thing full-time — but those aren’t really worth exploring in-depth just yet. Between Read More Books and The Big Read (the two publications I run), I’m off to a decent start. But I need to 3-5x the revenue to move further down that path. It seems unlikely and improbable, to put it mildly, but you never know.
I’ve experimented with paid features over the last two years (including paid-only link round-ups and a Slack community; neither worked very well at the time) and here’s where I’m at right now:
The Friday newsletter will always be free. It’s the crown jewel of this publication and I want any and all people to have access to it free of charge.
I do still offer a paid tier for Read More Books, but there aren’t any additional benefits for now (more on that below). It’s basically a way of saying, “Thank you, Jeremy, for your time and effort.”
I also run The Big Read, which is my paid book club. We read classic books together and paid subscribers get access to weekly recaps, discussion threads, screen adaptation reviews, and more.
I would never implore you to subscribe on a paid level. That’s just not my style. But if you’ve considered it, I want to lay out your options even more clearly, since I know it can be a little confusing at first:
If you want to be part of an online book club, subscribe to The Big Read. It’s a lot of fun, if I don’t say so myself.
If you’re not interested in The Big Read, subscribe to Read More Books as a paid member. For now, it’s a thank you, but I’m thinking about how to expand and offer even more in the coming months. Again, though, I would need an influx of paid subscribers to do that.
What are some features that would convince you to go paid? (One vote per voter, so pick what’s most compelling; if it’s all of them, let me know in the comments!)
I was limited to five options in the poll above, so let me know if there’s something else you’d add.
I would also consider just a weekly “This and That” round-up, with short snippets along the lines of:
Something I’ve Been Thinking About
Mini Book Lists
Bookish Article of the Week
Product Recommendation of the Week
Finally, if you’re in the book industry or know people with podcasts, keep me in mind when you come across interesting opportunities. I love talking about reading and books on podcasts (which helps this newsletter grow) and I love networking in the industry.
Read More Books is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
When I started this thing 5 years ago, I had no vision for how long it would last or how it would grow. It goes without saying, but I couldn’t have done it without your support.
I can’t wait to see what this thing does in another 5 years and I’m so glad to have ya’ll with me!
As always, let me know what you’re reading and enjoying! I love to hear.